You’ve got to vote

Today our Prime Minister Gordon Brown will visit the Queen and ask to dissolve Parliament thus firing the starting gun for a General Election on Thursday May 6.


I’m not sorry for shouting, this is important. In Britain people have died to ensure that you have a vote. Not just the Suffragettes or the Tolpuddle Martyrs, but the millions who have died in the service of our great nation in order to defend democracy.

If you don’t vote you’re betraying these people. Your grandfathers and grandmothers, your aunts and uncles, your friends and neighbours. Not voting sends a clear message to the world that you don’t care about anyone else but yourself.

Don’t believe the liars who think all the political parties are the same. Don’t believe those who’ve been lied to by a self-serving metropolitan elite in the London media and think that it’s all about image and not policy.

It’s not hard to vote. If you’re not registered to vote you still have time, until April 20 in fact. You still have time to apply for a postal vote, so you don’t even have to drag yourself to the polling station. You can even do it online, just visit the Electoral Commission About My Vote website.

Below is a text of an email that Todd Defren of Shift Communications in the USA sent to his staff during the presidential elections. I’m reproducing it today because it helps emphasise the importance of what I’m saying:

Hi all –

I’ve always believed strongly in encouraging people to vote.  I’m one of those wonks raised to vote for the local dog-catcher, if there’s an election for the post. 

It’s an all-too-rare privilege in this world to have the opportunity to make our voices heard through the pulling of a lever.  

So I hope you plan to make the time to vote this Tuesday in the primaries – certainly your managers will support you in this, if it requires coming in a bit late or leaving a bit early. 

It doesn’t matter who you’re voting for, please, just be sure to vote!!  It’s your country, folks: the participation of young people ensures that it’s not just retirees and extremists (of either party) who get to decide who’s in the Oval Office.

So however you choose to vote, just do it.

I’m not telling you how to vote, but for the record I care about the economy, I care about society, I care about the elderly, the vulnerable, young people and hard working families. That’s why I’m voting Labour for a future fair for all. Britain can’t afford the change for the worse the Tories would bring.

13 Replies to “You’ve got to vote

  1. “If you don’t vote you’re betraying these people.”

    Okay so let's look at my options:

    As someone who had always voted Labour I swore after Iraq that I never would again. Assorted behaviour since has only reinforced that belief. While my inclinations are still against the Tories there is no way I can vote for any party or individual who did not stand up against that war.

    So what are my other options? I could add another Old Etonian to the ranks of the untouchables and soon-to-be even more wealthy. No thanks. What kind of message would two Etonians running the country and its capital send to anyone who wants an equal society?

    I could vote Liberal Democrat. That is tempting seeing as they were the only “major” party not to fall in with the Iraq funfest.

    But my vote would be wasted. It wouldn't even count as a protest vote and protesting is what I most feel inclined to do.

    Ironically I think my vote would be best used by not using it at all – by showing my absolute apathy to the parties and system that have treated us with absolute disdain. Maybe sending a message is more important than voting for the genuinely dislikeable, dishonest and generally out of their depth.

    When we asked for transparency it was given to us, at best, begrudgingly and mostly with assorted further cover ups and reluctance.

    So you, with your political links and closeness to the Labour Party – don't you dare patronise me by now telling me how important democracy is. Don't you invoke the suffragettes as a reason to vote for one of two hideous parties. Nobody died in the hope that future generations would shred their expenses or bail out the ridiculously privileged.

    How can you mention the Tolpuddle Martyrs in connection with the modern Labour party? It's laughable and frankly embarrassing.

    I'm not arguing that people shouldn't vote – I'm arguing that you don't have the right to belittle those who choose not to. When politicians start to listen to people and behave responsibly between elections then we'll vote for them. In the meantime who are you to “shout” at people and tell them to vote?

    We've recently seen the USA vote in its first black president with a (mostly) historic agenda on the table. In the UK we're faced with frankly awful choice of Brown v Cameron.

    You're right Britain can't afford the change for the worse that the Tories would bring – but we also can't afford to continue as we are. Not just the Labour party but the whole rotten little club.

    So please, enough with the lecture. Believe it or not I've given the same lectures to others in the past. I've even dragged them out to vote for Blair and all.

    And for that I just feel like a right mug.

  2. If you don't vote then it's contradictory to air your opinions about politics IMO. Stuart, you're exactly right. People of my generation and younger don't vote for a number of reasons and, while I can't deny that one reason is the reputation of politics itself, it's probably got a lot to do with how easy a life we have living in a rich and civilised society like Britain.

    We have no great struggle like previous generations or indeed like what some countries are presently going through. We have no great war or great depression. Voting any of the three main parties is not (thank God or whoever the messiah is in your faith because we're a tollerant bunch in Blighty) a matter of life or death really, is it?

    Someone once told me that 15 years ago it was hard to get a job in PR in London if you were of common stock and had a regional accent to boot. “The industry was rife with it” this person told me. Well that's certainly changed. Eight + years ago I was on the bottom rung of the ladder (literally) with no education and working on north east building sites and in soul destroying Co Durham factories.

    Along with my own determination to better myself I thank the current government for providing the window for me to do so. For that I thank them and, despite my moaning and complaining about the Labour Party for the last two years, will be voting for them in the coming election.

  3. Wow @stedavies. Wow, that is a u-turn worthy of politicians themselves.

    When Blair quit you wrote:

    “After 10 years in power, Tony Blair has resigned from his position as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Needless to say it was the predominant news story in every piece of media I read, listened to or watched today. Apparently we were all “unsure of our future in 1997″ however, fast forward to 2007 and we’re a lot clearer. So says Tony.


    “Seriously, is the world a better place today than it was those years ago? Were we involved (in a very pointless) war back then? Were we being led to believe that “terror” and “terrorists” are knocking on our front door, waiting to pounce at any moment? Were house prices so ridiculously high that first time buyers didn’t stand a chance of getting on the property ladder then? Is the socialist idealism of encouraging a more balanced liberal system anything more than an ideology now than it was back then?

    “Spare me.

    “Blair is/was the MP for Sedgefield District – that’s the area where I grew up in and have lived for pretty much all of my life so far. I think I’m entitled to an opinion on this. Which leads me to ask the question: Will Blair continue to live in Co Durham which is one of the most economically deprived areas in the UK? (Okay it’s not bottom of the pile but last time I heard it was pretty close.) Or will he move to the more southern parts of the country while relinquishing his ’safe seat’ to some other public school well-to-do PM wannabe?

    “My thoughts are it’s the latter.

    “No wonder so many people (young and old) are put off politics. There’s such an air of falseness about it all. I’m not just talking about Blair either. Can anyone tell the difference between Labour and Conservative? What are the differences on each of their policies? Don’t get me wrong – I know there are some hard working people in politics with nothing but good intentions of helping others. Just seems, to me at least, that the ones making the decisions don’t share those same feelings.

    “I really want to be inspired. I really want to have faith in the government regardless of which party it may be. I really want to believe that the ones who make the decisions are making them for the benefit of the masses.

    “I really want but I can’t.

    “Controversial post over. Normal service will resume when I can be bothered. “

    Which seems pretty similar to my own argument above.

    And then David Brain answered:

    “At the risk of sounding even more of an old fart than you know I am, it was a different world ten years ago . . . and so, so much worse ten years before that. I for one left this country (and didn’t come back for seven years) in 1992 because there seemed no economic opportunity and the class divide was still rigid and set against people like Durham boys and (in my case) Essex boys – – unless your daddy knew someone. And the PR industry was rife with it.

    “TB has reformed politics in the UK definitely (it’s a GOOD thing the Tory party have changed and you can see little difference – though there is – between it and Labour), but more importantly he has presided over a total cultural change to a much more meritocratic society. Long way to go still, but a long road travelled too for those of us that can remember what it was like mate.”

    Which, strangely , is almost exactly the argument that you made above to me.

    So the next question is…was it simply this answer that turned your thought process pretty much 180 degrees?

    Or was the answer above tactical?

    Is there money in them there elections?

  4. @SteveJackson Exactly. Thanks for reinforcing my point for me. Whoever bothers to read my tweets will verify that that I complain about the Labour Party a lot on Twitter and bearing in mind that post was written, oh, nearly three years ago now, so in answer to your question, no, that isn't the only reason.

    It was certainly something that triggered my thoughts however and caused me to look into how the Labour Party has increased social mobility over the last 13 years, hence why I have mentioned it in my earlier comment.

    You say, “Which, strangely , is almost exactly the argument that you made above to me.”

    Why is this strange? You’ll see in my comment I noted that “someone once told me”. Why is this strange, Steve?

    If you don't choose to like or live in Britain that's fine. Some of us still do though and actually like it and are very proud to do so. And since we’re in the habit of digging up old blog posts we already knew your stance on this anyway.

    Proud not to be proud

    P.S. Are you seriously suggesting that there are some financial rewards in me deciding to vote Labour?! Laughable!

  5. Sorry I don't buy it:

    I don't believe that you can go from:

    “No wonder so many people (young and old) are put off politics. There’s such an air of falseness about it all. I’m not just talking about Blair either. Can anyone tell the difference between Labour and Conservative? What are the differences on each of their policies? Don’t get me wrong – I know there are some hard working people in politics with nothing but good intentions of helping others. Just seems, to me at least, that the ones making the decisions don’t share those same feelings.

    “I really want to be inspired. I really want to have faith in the government regardless of which party it may be. I really want to believe that the ones who make the decisions are making them for the benefit of the masses.

    “I really want but I can’t.”

    …to the post above – during the space of Brown's largely disastrous reign.

    Although, playing the nationalist card as you do, maybe Gordon Brown's “British Jobs for British People” struck a chord with you. As for choosing to live outside of Britain – I'd point out that I've been working for the vast majority of that time as a volunteer for a grass roots British charity working in Asia and Africa helping streetkids and those suffering from HIV/AIDS respectively. It's not like I've been sunning myself in Florida or awaiting my Daily Mail to be delivered to the Costa Del Sol.

    It's only in the past six months that I've taken the decision to pursue a further career and life away from the UK.

    My initial argument was with being told that I must vote and with you reiterating that if I don't vote then it's “contradictory” to air an opinion.

    No it isn't. We have a right to vote. We have a duty to make the effort to take part in the democratic process. That includes educating ourselves to the issues and parties.

    I have done that and, I think, for perhaps the first time – there is something of an argument not to vote. Or at least there is enough of an argument not to vote for those with Labour party ties not to so crudely lecture us about democracy.

    Democracy is dangerously damaged in the UK – but it's not the no -voters that are most to blame.

    Last election Polly Toynbee trotted out that “hold your nose and vote Labour” line. Well it can't be dragged out for another election.

    You earlier referred to the “pointless war” that Blair and Labour involved us in. Have you changed your mind on that? Or are you now able to overlook dead Iraqis and nowhere-to-be-found WMDs in the light of your sudden realisation/discovery of this social mobility you refer to?

    As regards social mobility it seems an odd phrase to bring up as it is widely understood it an area of genuine failure. 12 years after coming to power it was January 2010 before their promise in January this year to set up a Social Mobility Commission.

    In the end though, you can't blame people for showing the exact same apathy as you did. As you said: “Can anyone tell the difference between Labour and Conservative?”

  6. @SteveJackson – Let's take your actual substantial points:

    1) It's unrealistic to vote or not vote for a party on the basis of a single policy. There are parts of Labour policy I vehemently disagree with, and parts of Tory and Lib Dem policy I agree with. You have to look at the core values of the parties and the package of policies. There are millions of people who support Labour's position on Iraq, just as there are millions that don't. And don't forget Labour has already won an election since Iraq. Iraq isn't a subject that many voters bring up. They are far more likely to talk about schools, health, jobs etc.

    2) I agree with you we “can't afford to continue as we are” that's why two of the three main parties are backing a referendum on major electoral reform. The Tories aren't. So if you genuinely want to see change then that's a strong reason for backing with Labour or the Lib Dem so we will actually see it.

    3) It's a cliché to say politicians don't listen to people. Just because they don't DO everything you want doesn't mean they aren't listening. We live in a representative democracy, not the dictatorship of the crowd. Anyone who has actually been active in grassroots politics will tell you that the loudest voices rarely represent the true feelings of local people. Politicians do listen, but they listen to everyone and look at the facts behind each policy before making careful decisions. That means some people will think they aren't being listened to, just as others are delighted that they are being listened to.

    4) To paraphrase a story Tony Benn once told me about when he was being harangued by a constituent about every topic under the sun, until the chap let fly that he never voted, at which point Tony interrupted him and send “That's rather marvellous, it means I don't have to listen to you.”

  7. @stedavies @stevejackson I don't see anything contradictory in Stephen's thoughts. He's actually being quite sensible, lots of people have been disillusioned and disappointed. I have. He's explained how views change over time and that's a good thing. But you keep faith and engineer change from within. It's your choice.

  8. @stevejackson
    Fair enough, you “don’t buy it” and you “don’t believe” that I can change my stance in three years (since that blog post was written). What do you think my ulterior motive is then? Do you think, as you’ve already suggested and have yet to respond to, that I’m being paid financially by some third party to be positive about the Labour Party? As I said earlier, laughable.

    Steve, if we looked back at everything you said three years ago would it still be consistent with your beliefs today? Everything? You hadn’t educated yourself within those three years to form an opinion that had changed over time?

    Who is playing the nationalist card? I simply referred to one of your blog posts where you said the British aren’t proud. My point was that you should speak for yourself in situations like that because a lot of people would and do beg to differ. And I’m certainly not criticising your initiatives in developing countries. In fact, I’ve praised you for it in the past on my blog:

    OK, you choose not to vote because, as you say, “democracy is dangerously damaged in the UK”. That’s your opinion but a lot of us don’t believe that and are optimistic about the future of Britain. And here’s one back at you. The Lib Dems were opposed the Iraq war and yet, despite feeling so strongly about it, you don’t use your vote for them? Well, then, you’ll never see the change that you want.

  9. Stuart – there's not a whole lot I can argue with but I disagree entirely with:

    “There are millions of people who support Labour's position on Iraq, just as there are millions that don't.”

    And what does one policy/incident make etc. And besides, Labour have won an election since so …what…fresh slate?

    No – you cannot do that. You cannot boil something as enormous as Iraq down to a single policy or incident and ask us to overlook it. There are certain issues and way of behaving that are just to large for that.

    You are making the mistake of arguing about politics not about ethics.

    For example no decent person would overlook the BNPs attitudes and policies on race and immigration so long as their plans for education and the economy make sense.

    Like I said, there are some things that are just too big to be overlooked.

    As was mentioned by @stedavies I live overseas. I live in Hanoi, in a country that lost four million people as a result of an unjust and unnecessary war. It is only just getting back on its feet and rebuilding infrastructure.

    You can't absolve a party of blame quite so quickly as if the lives lost are now just so much newsprint that have long been binned. We can't boil it all down to politics.

    And rest assured – if Tony Benn was standing I would have no problems voting what so ever.

  10. Voting isn't always a good thing. Labour whips rounded up 100 MP's at the last minute to force through the Digital Economy Bill in the biggest farce since…. oh, the expenses furore a few months ago!

  11. hi there i sent my details to vote in time before the 20th and i got a letter back today to say i am to late is there anything i can do? thankyou

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